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Local Authority round-up 04/06/21

Our Local Authority round up provides brief summaries of topical information on a weekly basis, to keep you aware of the changes and updates relevant to you.

Commercial

£18.3 million funding to make streets safer

The government has announced £18.3 million funding under the Safer Streets Fund to make streets safer. Almost £1.5 million of the funding has been awarded to the North East with Durham PCC to receive £670,864, Newcastle City Council to receive £431,967 and Cleveland PCC to receive £366,289. The funding will be used to fund projects which aim to reduce crimes such as burglary, vehicle theft and robbery by changing the design of streets to make them safer including locked gates around alleyways, increased street lighting and installation of CCTV. Home Secretary Priti Patel said “I will not stand by while criminals inflict fear and misery on our communities, which is why I launched the Safer Streets Fund to improve security in areas blighted by crimes like burglary, robbery and theft.”

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Regulatory

Report calls for a legal duty on councils to provide early help to children and families

A report, produced from research by the National Children’s Bureau and the University of Cambridge, is calling for a legal duty on councils to provide early help to children and families, rather than providing what is easiest to measure. It argues that early help can help prevent children reaching a crisis where interventions by social workers are necessary, at a considerable expense to public funding. The report notes that there is a lack of a clear shared definition of early help and little agreement over the thresholds for stepping in to provide support and notes that it has been difficult for policy-makers to make the case for early help as measuring what works is difficult.

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International Trade

Government’s approach to the Partnership Council and the Committees established by the UK-EU trade and co-operation agreement

The UK co-chair of the Partnership Council set out in a letter the government’s approach to the Partnership Council and the Committees established by the UK-EU Trade and Co-operation Agreement (TCA), and clarified the roles of the devolved administrations in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. The Partnership Council and the Committees comprise UK and EU representatives, and decisions are taken by consensus. The roles of these bodies largely relate to the implementation, interpretation and application of the TCA. The Partnership Council sits at the top of a complex institutional structure, and the 19 Committees beneath it have more specialist expertise: the Trade Partnership Committee, the Trade Specialised Committees, and the Specialised Committees. The letter sets out that individual government departments are primarily responsible for the detailed implementation of the TCA in their areas of policy. For example, most Specialised Committees will be chaired by officials from the lead Whitehall department. Certain aspects of the TCA cover areas of devolved competence. Where items of devolved competence are on the agenda, the government expects to facilitate attendance by devolved administrations, but the UK co-chair of the relevant body has final discretion about attendance. Officials in the Cabinet Office’s EU Secretariat should regularly discuss strategic and cross-cutting EU issues with officials in the devolved administrations. Before a Partnership Council meeting, the UK co-chair will facilitate a collective meeting with responsible devolved administration ministers, to hear views and discuss the UK’s approach to the meeting. The letter also announced that the first meeting of the Partnership Council is expected to be held in early June 2021, and matters of devolved competence will be on the agenda. A meeting of the withdrawal agreement Joint Committee will be held around the same time.

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UK begins process to join Trans-Pacific Partnership

The government has announced that the UK has begun the process to join the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). The TPP currently consists of 11 members which are Japan, Malaysia, Vietnam, Singapore, Brunei, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Mexico, Chile and Peru. By joining the TPP it will allow the UK to agree further trade deals following its departure from the EU. International trade secretary Liz Truss said the government would present plans to Parliament “in the coming weeks” before starting negotiations, but it is not expected that the UK will join the TPP until next year at the earliest. Liz Truss said joining the TPP “will help shift our economic centre of gravity away from Europe towards faster-growing parts of the world, and deepen our access to massive consumer markets in the Asia Pacific. We would get all the benefits of joining a high-standards free-trade area, but without having to cede control of our borders, money or laws.”

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Planning and housing

Waking watch relief fund re-opens for applications

On 26 May 2021, the Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government (MHCLG) announced that it has re-opened applications for funding from the waking watch relief fund, as there was money left. The new application period closes on 24 June 2021. In December 2020, the Secretary of State for the MHCLG announced the introduction of a £30 million waking watch relief fund. The fund was established to pay for the installation of alarms to remove or reduce the reliance on a waking watch in residential buildings of 17.7 metres or over in height in England with unsafe cladding systems, The initial application period for the fund ran from 31 January 2021 to 14 March 2021. MHCLG’s latest announcement also refers to revised fund application guidance, which indicates that approximately £2 million of funding is left, which will be allocated on a first come, first served basis. The fund covers reasonable up-front capital costs of installing an alarm system in certain buildings in England that have unsafe cladding. The guidance emphasises that measures such as waking watches and alarm systems are short-term measures only, and no substitute for removing or replacing the cladding. To be eligible, private sector residential buildings must be 17.7 metres or over in height and have an unsafe cladding system. There must also be a waking watch in place, the costs of which are being passed on to leaseholders under their leases. For social sector buildings the Registered Provider of Social Housing must also provide evidence that waking watch costs have been passed to leaseholders and that the costs of installing alarms will be charged to the leaseholders on a proportionate basis, if not covered by this fund. Anyone considering applying for funding should check the revised guidance carefully for the details of the criteria, and how to apply.

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Digital planning tools to be tested by ten councils

Housing Minister Christopher Pincher has announced that the use of digital tools in the planning process will be tested by ten councils as part of a Government pilot. The councils will share a £1.1 million grant fund to implement a pathfinder programme to make planning proposals more accessible and interactive through online maps and data. Councils will test how existing local plans translate into the new system, including moving towards an interactive map with accompanying annotation document. Mr Pincher said “Today’s announcement will ensure the planning process will be brought into the digital age. Communities will be reconnected to a planning process that is supposed to serve them, with residents more engaged over what happens in their areas. While the current system excludes residents, who do not have the time to contribute to the lengthy and complex planning process, local democracy and accountability will now be enhanced by technology and transparency.”

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Funding announced to cut carbon emissions and reduce energy costs

The government has announced £44 million in funding in order to help cut carbon emissions by up to 22% for homes and buildings connected to heat networks while providing potential reductions of up to 15% in energy costs. £30 million of the funding will be used to fund three Heat Networks Investment Projects providing low carbon energy in south-east London, Manchester and Cambridgeshire, whilst helping to bring down energy bills. The remaining £14.6 million of funding from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council and Natural Environment Research Council will fund eleven projects in England, Scotland and Wales to explore ways the UK can develop and use efficient, low-carbon technologies for heating and cooling buildings.

For more information please click here.

If you have any questions about the issues raised in this update, please do not hesitate to get in touch.

Please note that this briefing is designed to be informative, not advisory and represents our understanding of English law and practice as at the date indicated. We would always recommend that you should seek specific guidance on any particular legal issue.

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